(This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.)
FRIDAY, April 3 — Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail warned today that as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Greater Lansing, is starting to look more and more like a suburb of Detroit.
Records show that Ingham County, as of today, has tracked 152 confirmed coronavirus cases and one related death since the pandemic struck Michigan. And while hospitals near Detroit reach capacity, local hospitals like McLaren and Sparrow are hesitant to offer any help, she said.
“Right now, I don’t think Ingham County is jumping on that one,” Vail said during a virtual press conference earlier today. “If you look and see what is going on in the state, we are beginning to look like a suburb of Detroit. We’re keeping a close eye on our own capacity.”
Vail said only 24 people remained hospitalized in Ingham County with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The other cases are much more mild and patients are recovering at home. But until cases stop rising in Greater Lansing, local hospitals are focused on their own, she said.
Statewide, nearly 500 people are dead from COVID-19 in Michigan, including four in Greater Lansing, as the state pushed past 12,000 confirmed cases earlier this afternoon.
According to the latest state records, Michigan charted another 1,953 new cases of COVID-19 and another 62 related deaths today. At least 12,744 cases have now been identified in Michigan, mostly in southeast Michigan, with at least 479 deaths reported in the last 24 days.
Eaton County tracked its second death today following reports of a 71-year-old man who died there this week. Ingham and Clinton counties have each charted one coronavirus-related death over the last week. Among them: A homebound man in his 50s from Ingham County and an elderly woman from Clinton County, each with other pre-existing health conditions.
Together, the three counties have tracked at least 248 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date.
According to reports released today, about 89% of those dead (and about 80% of cases) are from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. At least 208 cases were reported from Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties, with deaths reported in each county.
A newly released racial breakdown also shows that African Americans account for 35% of confirmed cases and 40% of related deaths. Caucasians accounted for 24% of cases and 28% of deaths; those of an unknown race accounted for 35% of confirmed cases and 28% of deaths.
The latest case spike puts Michigan within a few hundred confirmed cases of California, the state with the third most confirmed cases in the country behind New York and New Jersey. Michigan also reports the third highest number of deaths among all other states in the U.S.
Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists 239,279 cases of COVID-19 and 5,433 deaths in the U.S. The New York Times database, which is updated more frequently, listed 258,611 confirmed cases and 6,660 deaths nationwide as of this afternoon.
Vail also urged local residents to begin wearing face masks in public as the virus spreads. While it won’t necessarily protect wearers from contracting the virus, it’ll likely mitigate the spread.
“These really should not be medical masks,” Vail explained. “There’s no need for an N-95 mask. I’m talking about cloth masks, bandanas or really anything to use to cover your face.”
Michigan’s top medical official, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, also told residents yesterday to consider wearing homemade face masks in public while reserving other medical supplies for hospitals.
Public schools are staying closed this year.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order yesterday morning suspending face-to-face learning at K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year as coronavirus cases skyrocketed.
The Ingham Intermediate School District, including a dozen local school districts near Greater Lansing, said instruction could continue in a combination of online work, over the phone instruction or even by mail, reports the Lansing State Journal. Options are being considered.
Michigan State University will also stay online this summer.
Michigan State University announced yesterday that it will continue to administer courses online for the full summer semester beginning on May 11, according to reports from MLive.
Lansing and East Lansing have stepped up to help the homeless.
The cities of Lansing and East Lansing announced yesterday they will provide up to $30,000 in one-time funding to local charities and homeless shelters to help them purchase additional resources for those identified as homeless who cannot or do not want to be sheltered.
The cashflow follows recent reports of at least two or three dozen people in Lansing, likely more, camping out at parks and wooded knolls, underneath bridges and inside empty buildings. Local homeless shelters are at capacity, and many still have nowhere to turn.
Michigan’s hospitals are making progress, but still need some help.
Henry Ford Health System is heading up the first large-scale study in the country to test a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients. The five-hospital system is close to getting federal approval and is going to enroll participants next week, reports the Detroit News.
Nurses in hospitals across the state are being asked to voluntarily relocate to metro Detroit to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic at its statewide epicenter, sometimes offering up to $2 more per hour to make the move in addition to other benefits, reports the Detroit Free Press.
General Motors Co. announced yesterday that it started training 1,000 workers at its Kokomo Operations in Indiana to build ventilators for medical personnel, reports the Detroit News.
Whitmer is still asking doctors, nurses and other medical staff to go to the “front lines” of the coronavirus pandemic to staff the TCF Center, among other roles. Details can be found at michigan.gov/fightcovid19. The state is also seeking donations for more medical equipment.
Michigan’s economy has seen far better days.
Michigan’s economy has crashed because of coronavirus. Early estimates from the state Treasury Department show that tax revenues could plummet by $1 billion to $3 billion as a result, with another big blow next year, according to recent reports in the Detroit Free Press.
Nearly 300,000 residents filed for unemployment last week under newly expanded benefits in Michigan, more than double the 128,006 who filed the week before, reports the Detroit News.
State officials have asked residents to be patient as they try to fix online glitches and make adjustments to an overwhelmed state unemployment system, reports the Detroit Free Press.
A curfew isn’t coming to Michigan, at least not yet.
A citywide curfew has been announced in the city of Flint that will remain in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night for the next 30 days beginning tomorrow. Those who don’t abide by the curfew could be punished with a 30-day misdemeanor and a $500 fine, reports MLive.
Whitmer said yesterday that she hasn’t discussed a statewide curfew, but expects to consider it. Similarly, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said he hasn’t considered any curfew in Lansing, but would be willing to consider the concept should it become necessary as the virus spreads.
In related news...
The city of Detroit is testing first responders, bus drivers and health care workers with new rapid COVID-19 testing kits that produce results in about 15 minutes, the Free Press reports. The city spent nearly $400,000 on the kits, instruments and tools to launch the new system.
Advocates for store owners in Detroit are concerned about lottery ticket sales as an unnecessary mechanism to transmit the coronavirus, reports the Detroit Free Press. Whitmer last night said lottery ticket sales are not essential and that she would take a “serious look” at enforcement.
The Detroit News reports that Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones recently tested positive for coronavirus but hasn’t dealt with any major symptoms since going into isolation.
Michigan aims to have enough supplies by the end of next week to give three face masks to all 38,000 prisoners and thousands of prison staffers, reports the Detroit News. Masks will soon be mandatory after at least 158 inmates and 26 corrections staffers contracted coronavirus.
With alcohol consumption on the rise, the Michigan Liquor Commission also urged residents yesterday to moderate their drinking as the pandemic continues to spread across the state.
Nationally, alcoholic beverage sales spiked 55 percent late last month as COVID-19 took off.
Ann Arbor’s Hash Bash hasn’t exactly been canceled, but rather will be moving to a virtual format for people to light up together at noon Saturday, reports the Detroit Free Press. Smoking pot with 1,000 people is not recommended or considered essential in Michigan.
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